Unconscious bias is present in everyone and is an issue that companies need to be aware of in their hiring processes. Many organisations have been trialling blind recruitment as a means to combat these biases and therefore increase the diversity in their workforce.
What is Blind Recruitment?
Blind Recruitment seems to be a buzz term at the moment however the concept has actually been around for a while. One of the first examples was the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Back in 1980 they were comprised predominantly of white males, so wishing to improve their diversity, they held their auditions behind screens in order to disguise any gender, ethnicity or other so that they could only be assessed on their performance a la The Voice. The result? A nearly 50:50 male to female mix and a more diverse orchestra.
Blind Recruitment is the process of removing references to gender, ethnicity, education, age or any other details that could provoke a biased response.
It is assumed that by dong this a hiring manager can only assess a candidate based on their merits and as a result produce a more diverse shortlist. This is a tool to overcome unconscious bias and promote diversity in the workforce and is becoming more popular in companies.
How do you implement Blind Recruitment?
It needs to be implemented carefully in order to be of maximum benefit. Firstly you need to decide which factors you need to omit from resumes. You may be aware that your company has a gender issue, so would need to remove names, or perhaps there is a bias towards age, in which case concealing age, date of birth and dates on education would be appropriate.
Now you have your blind recruitment criteria you need to decide what process to put in place after initial shortlisting as you will still need to speak to or meet with the potential candidates. One way of doing this could be providing a test or assessment that the candidate needs to complete that is relevant to the job position, such as an online psychometric test or a case study for them to complete.
Finally by knowing what your biases are you can train staff appropriately, not only on the techniques of blind recruitment but on the reasons for implementing it in the first place, so that ultimately you can hire the best people for your roles.
Is it effective?
There is a lot of evidence to show that Blind Recruitment increases diversity and is an effective way of tackling bias in the hiring process. However a recent study from the Prime Minister’s Behavioural Economics Team suggested that Blind Recruitment practices in the public sector had backfired. Participants were 2.9% more likely to shortlist female candidates and 3.2% less likely to shortlist male applicants when they were identifiable compared with when they were deidentified. This particular study showed that public servants actually engaged in positive discrimination towards female and minority candidates.
However another example, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, when they advertised 19 senior roles and concealed the name, gender, and other identifying details from recruiters they ended up with 15 women appointments into these senior positions and doubling the number of female executives in their ranks from 21% to 43%.
So perhaps the best way forward is more training around bias and being aware of your own personal tendencies to make hiring decisions that are not based on merit.